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Month: April 2020

Meet the Artist – Carl Burton

Carl Burton is a New York photographer whose work was exhibited at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Color and Light: Photographs by Carl Burton in 2011. He often works with a panoramic camera capturing landscapes and cityscapes such as The Dogana, Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, pictured above. Curator of Education, Alice Novak, recently caught up with the artist to ask him about the creation of this photograph.

Above: Carl Burton (American, born 1937), The Dogana, Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, 1996, Digital inkjet print on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of the artist, 2011.5.2

What is it that attracts you to the city of Venice?

Venice is the most seductive of all cities with some of the most beautiful light on earth. It’s a photographer’s paradise, especially in the mornings, late afternoons, and early evenings when the sun is low. Early morning is actually my favorite time. I like to wander through the almost empty city, my camera on a tripod slung over my shoulder. Then, I can take the time to look and discover.

I first visited in August during the 1970s.  My late wife Carol and I had been driving through Italy’s deep south and decided one evening that we’d had our fill of mountains and dusty villages. “How about driving to Venice?” I asked. “Why not?” we agreed, and early the next morning we fled Bari, driving some 510 miles along the Adriatic coast. We arrived in Venice on a sweltering afternoon, exhausted and deeply disappointed. Indeed, our first visit to Piazza San Marco was so hot and crowded, that we felt we’d made a terrible mistake. To make matters worse, Carol’s diabetes soon acted up, and she was hospitalized. For the next six days, I was on my own. What looked at first like a disaster, turned out in the end to be good luck. In the hospital, Carol, who was studying Italian literature, roomed with six Italian women who spoke no English. They and the hospital staff were kind and welcoming, and she quickly learned more about the real Italy than she could in a year of graduate school. As I made friends in our pensione and explored the city, I realized that the longer you stayed, the more you looked, the more the city opened up and welcomed you. What we had believed would be our only visit to Venice became the first of many, and for a long time, we visited every year.

What is the story of this picture?

I took this photo, in May of 1996, during a special and sad time. Carol had died in February, and on our last visit, she had asked to be cremated. Because she loved Venice, she asked if I would take her ashes there and scatter them in the lagoon? “Look on your trip”, she said, “as a celebration of our life together.” I took the photo not long before I carried out her wishes. Friends were joining me, and as I awaited them, I explored my hotel. One afternoon, I walked out on the hotel’s taxi landing and looked down the Grand Canal toward Palladio’s great church San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. Directly across stood the Punta della Dogana, which was then the disused customs house. (It’s now a museum of modern art,, and a wonderful example of historic preservation.) It could be an interesting shot, I thought, and ran for my camera.

What caught your eye about this composition?

I was using a panoramic camera, a Fuji 6×17 that produces a negative that measures 2 1/4 inches by 7 inches, a format perfect for this particular image. As I set up the camera, I looked carefully through the viewfinder. The stormy sky over San Giorgio on the left was both beautiful and threatening. The warm light on the water taxi formed a nice contrast. I liked the way the pilings gave a vertical interest to the picture plane, and how the walkway on the right drew your eye to the canal, along the opposite shore to the Dogana, then left across the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore and the approaching storm. I don’t actually think this analytically when I shoot. I simply say to myself, that image sings.

Have you been back to Venice recently?

Yes, my wife Ruthie and I were there in September on a tour called “Dark Age Brilliance” (Martin Randall), visiting early Christian and Byzantine churches in Ravenna, Cividale, and Porec, Croatia, ending up in Torcello, Venice, Our glimpse of Venice from there was so marvelous, that we regretted not staying longer.

What are your thoughts about Venice today?

I’m worried about it. Too many tourists, too many huge cruise ships, stirring up the canal water and undermining the foundations of Venice’s buildings. Too much flooding—the most recent Aqua Alta [Tide Peak] was astonishingly high. Save Venice is very important to me.

And finally, the coronavirus, which stopped this year’s Carnival. This pandemic is just the latest in a series of plagues that have struck Venice. You can’t see it in my photograph, but just out of sight on the right side of the image is the Church of Santa Maria della Salute (health). After the Black Plague of 1630, the church was constructed and dedicated as thanks for the city’s deliverance.

Are you working in your home City of New York at the moment?

I take a camera on our daily walks to Central and Riverside Parks. You can follow me on Instagram and on Flickr.

Click here to see more work in the MMFA’s collection by Carl Burton

Local Artists Live – Tori Jackson

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes in studios of local artists? On Saturday, May 30, Montgomery artist Tori Jackson will broadcast live on the Museum’s Instagram—opening her studio space to share her artwork, reflect on her inspirations, and offer a live Q&A with her audience! This is a great chance to meet one of our local artists and learn about her creations.


Above is a recording of the May 30 live stream event that was originally broadcast on the Museum’s Instagram account. Click here to follow the Museum on Instagram

Get to Know the Artist

This Saturday, May 30, Local Artists Live will feature Tori Jackson, a painter whose art speaks not only through its distinguishable beauty but also its vibrant heritage. Originally from Prattville, Tori recalls her youth: full of recreation, playing outside with her sister and cousins, picking fresh fruit at her grandma’s house, and constant creative engagement. “I painted anything I could get my hands on,” she says, as she remembers collecting rocks to paint for her mom. Both of her parents and her grandma, Alberta, were all artists who enthusiastically supported her creative pursuits through her early stages.

Tori Jackson, “Annie Lou,” 2015, oil on canvas

Along with joyful memories of exploration and creation, Tori also remembers ridicule growing up, whether stemming from others’ judgment towards or their ignorance of her ancestry. It wasn’t until she was creating work as a live painter and participating in an event at The Sanctuary that she was offered the opportunity to boldly embrace her heritage and share her viewpoint with others through a public platform. Tori recalls meeting Kevin King, when he walked up to her and asked: “Don’t you have Native American ancestry?” She replied, “Yes, African-Native American, mostly.” After this exchange, Kevin connected Tori to Michelle Browder, to take part in Art on the Square, an annual event held in downtown Montgomery that highlights the significance of our city’s history by bringing light to voices often unheard or ignored. As part of the event, Tori performed a traditional Native American dance; this was particularly impactful because it was not only on the same streets that were part of where the Trail of Tears took place but also the very location where slaves used to be auctioned for a penny or less.

As Montgomery evolves, so does our desire to do better, to be better. Read below to learn more about Tori and her art, and how a pure approach to creating is part of her attempt to bring about positive change for our community.

What is your favorite thing about living in the South?

My favorite thing about living in the south is seeing change take place, or hoping that my actions and the actions of those around me will make a change. We have a long way to go.

What excites you most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene?

What excites me the most is opportunity, for all people and all types of art. My art is very different in comparison to what is typical around here and often I have felt unless I paint a cow, shoe, or a barn I had no chance at winning or being acknowledged. It is just not me to paint such things. I do not like being put in an artistic box. Most artists who paint out of passion do not.

What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?

I’m not sure if I have a favorite. I try to put meaning into all of my paintings and there are so many I can look at and remember exactly where I was and how I was feeling. However, I will say, I did do a portrait of my grandmother (pictured above) and because of the way I feel about her that may be my very own Mona Lisa. She is not always fond of pictures, and I had been begging her for years to let me paint her. The day she finally agreed, I called her that morning and for whatever reason she said, “alright”. I was so excited I’m pretty sure I got in my car within minutes after hanging up to take some pictures of her for reference. I took an elaborate scarf and wrapped it around her head and took her glasses off and she began to pose. That day she felt as beautiful as I’d always thought she was.

Leonard Koscianski (American, born 1952), “Red Fish,” 1990, Oil on canvas, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase, 1991.17

What are some works of art in the MMFA’s collection that inspire you?

I have two art pieces that always struck me. One has an orange fish surrounded by long blades of grass (Leonard Koscianski’s Red Fish, 1990; pictured right). The colors have such contrast that the green from the blades of grass and the orange line down the back of the fish look like they are glowing. It’s definitely the colors of that painting that grab me in. My other favorite painting has an almost androgynous woman holding a baby (Gary Chapman’s Mutter und Tochter, 1993). The figures are so detailed and perfectly proportionate. Aside from the figures, the presentation of her body language is so strong. It makes me think of how strong women truly are, but also eliminates the everyday typical appearance of a woman. Every time I see that painting it makes me want to go home and practice my figures that much more.

Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in the moment?

I’m not keen on claiming to have one favorite painting because my mood changes day to day, hour to hour and I have so many artists I love. However, I have always been fond of Vincent van Gogh. I was fortunate enough to get to travel abroad in college to Paris. While in Paris, we went to three museums, The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and unfortunately another I cannot recall, other than it had contemporary art. I never thought I would get to see Van Gogh’s art in person and I was overwhelmed with emotions; the movement in his paintings is so incredible. I cried right there in the middle of Musee d’Orsay. Michelangelo and Monet were both incredible, too. Water Lilies is huge! Pictures do not do justice.

Tell us about your most preferred place to be on earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?

My favorite place to be on earth is probably The Smoky Mountains. The serenity and fresh air is absolutely something that recharges my soul. Having a peaceful mind or wanting to gain a sense of peace is a big part of my process as an artist.

What drives your creativity?

Balance drives my creativity. It is a type of therapy for me. Music festivals have absolutely been a big part of that drive as well. Receiving an opportunity to work next to some of my current favorite artists like Drake Arnold and Steven Teller is an indescribable feeling.

What is your preferred medium?

My preferred medium is oil paint. I had a great teacher my first year in college and we were all required to purchase oil paint. I like it because I can leave a piece and go back to it.

Do you listen to any particular music when you create?

I do not have a particular type of music I listen to when I paint. My music depends on my mood, but my colors depend on my music.

What advice would you give to beginning artists?

My advice would be find your audience. There is no right or wrong in art, because art is subjective. Some people like Picasso in his earlier realism stage, some prefer his later impressionistic stage.

Above: Tori Jackson, Dedicated to Josie Billie (Seminole Medicine Man), 2019, mixed media on CNC cutout

Local Artists Live – Kevin King

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes in studios of local artists? On Saturday, May 16, Montgomery artist Kevin King will broadcast live on the Museum’s Instagram—opening his studio space to share his artwork, reflect on his inspirations, and offer a live Q&A with his audience! This is a great chance to meet one of our local artists and learn about his creations.


Above is a recording of the May 16 live stream event that was originally broadcast on the Museum’s Instagram account. Click here to follow the Museum on Instagram

Get to Know the Artist

Kevin King is the featured artist on this week’s Local Artists Live. Not only an artist, he is also an activist who founded and is the Executive Director of The King’s Canvas, a gallery and studio space that offers opportunities for fostering creativity and learning important life skills. Kevin, whose non-commissioned art focuses on raising awareness of social justice issues, is a man of faith who creates with deep purpose. When asked if he remembers the wisest words ever spoken to him, he quotes a verse from the Bible, Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good: And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God…”

Kevin grew up in Mobile, but he recalls visiting his father in Montgomery during spring breaks and summer vacations. A favorite memory from those visits was attending LL Cool J’s Nitro Tour at Garrett Coliseum in 1989. Growing up, he was actively creative through high school, then set art aside until picking it up again in 2013. At that time, he was deeply entrenched in serving West Montgomery; the historical context and connected social issues of this community and city were all constantly at the forefront, inspiring Kevin to create art that addresses controversial issues. Continue reading below to learn about Kevin, his art and process, and be sure to tune in at 10 AM on Saturday, May 16, for his live takeover of the MMFA’s Instagram account!

What is your favorite thing about living in the South?

I have always lived in the south so my favorite thing is the sense of family, community, and hospitality.

What excites you most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene?

I am excited about more creatives who were more underground and felt unaccepted by the mainstream art community unapologetically being themselves and finding community and opportunity without compromising who they are.

What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?

Do or Die (pictured above). It represents the socially conscious and activism hip hop movement that I grew up listening to.

Do or Die is a depiction of character Radio Raheem from Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do The Right Thing. To me Raheem represents hip hop culture in a way that elevates and celebrates socially conscious protest hip hop such as rap group Public Enemy’s Fight the Power (Listen on Spotify or Apple Music). Do or Die honors young black men in our communities who fall victim to violence at the hands of the police such as the Radio Raheem Character in the movie. Do The Right Thing was inspired by real-life incidents, and the movie ends with a dedication to “families of Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Griffith, Arthur Miller, Edmund Perry, Yvonne Smallwood and Michael Stewart,” all black New Yorkers who had been killed in the years leading up to the film’s release.

Is there an artist represented in the MMFA’s collection whose work speaks strongly to you?

I love Yvonne Wells’ art.

Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in the moment?

Ernie Barnes’ The Sugar Shack. No, I have not seen it in person.

Tell us about your most preferred place to be on earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?

The King’s Canvas studio. It provides the artistic ambiance that I need in order to foster creativity.

What drives your creativity?

The challenge to creatively address issues in our society, especially when there are no available ears to hear your frustrations and an unwillingness to stand up for the voiceless and powerless.

What is your preferred medium?

Acrylic on canvas.

Do you listen to any particular music when you create?

Old School Funk, Jazz, and Hip Hop. It really depends on the subject of the art.

What advice would you give to beginning artists?

Never stop creating.

Above: Kevin King (American), Do or Die, Acrylic on canvas

Local Artists Live – Tara Cady Sartorius

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes in studios of local artists? On Saturday, May 2, Montgomery artist Tara Cady Sartorius will broadcast live on the Museum’s Instagram—opening her studio space to share her artwork, demonstrate a creation that reflects the whimsy of Flimp, and offer a live Q&A with her audience! This is a great chance to meet one of our local artists and learn about her creations.

Left: Tara Cady Sartorius, Running at the Riverfront, 2015, Oil on Board; Right: Photograph of Tara Cady Sartorius


Above is a recording of the May 2 live stream event that was originally broadcast on the Museum’s Instagram account. Click here to follow the Museum on Instagram

Get to Know the Artist

Saturday, May 2, 2020, would have been the Musuem’s 30th annual Flimp Festival, canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic along with all public programming based on guidelines from the Governor, Mayor, and health officials. In honor of this temporarily unrealized momentous occasion, Local Artists Live will feature the founder of the festival, artist and educator Tara Cady Sartorius. 

Tara’s path to becoming an artist was a natural one, abundantly nourished by a creative, eclectic lifestyle growing up. During her childhood, Tara’s family moved so often that she attended 10 different schools before graduating high school, living on the east and west coasts of the United States and even spending a summer in France. Along with frequently moving, she learned from an early age about the dance of life by observing her seven older siblings and the death of her father when she was just five years old. Her mother, an artist and musician, was an independent thinker and surrounded her children with books, music, and art. Tara’s childhood overflowed with creative activities, and she remembers an obsession with scissors and cutting things, whether they should be cut or not, and specifically recalling that she did not get in trouble for this. 

After earning her undergraduate degree in ceramics from the University of Santa Barbara, a certificate in art teaching while still in California, and eventually her MFA in sculpture and art criticism from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Tara’s journey brought her to Alabama. Her mid-summer move to Montgomery in early adulthood stands out as quite a shock. “Everything was so green it almost hurt my eyes…it was so hot.” Tara came to Montgomery in 1986 to serve as the Curator of Education at the MMFA, a position she held for 21 years. Brought here to oversee the development of the Museum’s new interactive gallery (what we now know as ArtWorks), Tara’s artistic vision and educational philosophy kept the MMFA’s engagement with the community fresh, fun, and ever-evolving. She believes now, as she did then, that “the pursuit of knowledge should be motivated by curiosity.” This philosophy radiates through the merging of whimsical art and FUNdamental learning, all embodied in the Flimp Festival, held annually during the first weekend of May at the start of spring. We asked Tara a few questions about Flimp, living in the south and Montgomery, and reflections on art and art-making.

What sparked the founding of the Flimp Festival?

The idea for the Flimp Festival came right around the opening of the new Museum in 1988. At that time a group of us from the Museum used to go down to the beach to spend long weekends in Seaside way before it was very developed. One evening we all decided the museum needed a “signature” event and our brainstorming led us to [Geneva Mercer’s] Flimp Fountain and the Flimp Festival. We had lots of laughs but then got somewhat serious about it (in a fun way) as we gave it a mission (imagination, humor, and creativity) and chose components according to those three values. 

Do you have an all-time favorite Flimp memory?

One of my favorite memories was the performance piece that Robin VanLear created the evening before Flimp. It was a spectacular group effort with costumes, lanterns, a boat, and a house-like construction (built by Robin) on the “island” across the lake. At dusk, performers holding bamboo sticks with round paper lanterns on the ends slowly streamed out of the museum and surrounded the lake, evenly spaced around the water. One by one the performers lit their lanterns in the direction of the house. At the same time, another performer was in a canoe with a “guide” being paddled across the lake. As they reached the shore below the house, the “guide” got out of the canoe and walked toward the house as one of our interns, Andrea Potochick, walked all the way across the slippery weir. Both figures then simultaneously appeared to “light” an electric light in the house, which was covered in a translucent white paper. After the performance that night, there was a huge storm and the house was struck by lightning. Flimp is just magical that way! 

What is your favorite thing about living in the South?

I like that if I so much as scratch the surface of humanity around here, there can be a great outpouring of love. Southerners seem desperate to connect. I like that. The people I have met here are incredible, and I love the language and the double entendres, and I especially appreciate the lack of ability to assume anything about anyone. I have grown to be defensive and protective of the South in terms of culture and interpersonal human caring. The humanity here is way more complicated than it gets credit for. The tension between the races and socio-economic strata are palpable, and I wonder if reconciliation will ever be possible. My approach is entirely one-on-one. 

What excites you most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene?

I have seen several times when Montgomery’s art scene seems to be growing, and then it pulls back, and then it grows again. I have great respect and confidence in the artists I know and the arts institutions with which I have become involved or familiar. It does seem that there is a lot of duplication, but there may be a need for that if one institution, organization, or group cannot fit all needs. I am liking the current growing appreciation for diversity. It’s about time! 

What is your favorite work of art from the MMFA’s collection, and what specifically about the artwork speaks strongly to you?

That is an impossible question to answer. The answer may change from day-to-day depending on my mood. Because I have written and researched so many of the works in the collection, I feel them very close to my heart. In playing this “judgment game” I recognize that there could be a difference between “my favorite” and a piece I would love to have in my home to look at every day–but here are some favorites, in no particular order:

Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel at the moment?

It doesn’t matter what the artwork is, because the influence is what it is more about. Sometimes art appeals to me because of its intellect, sometimes I find things funny, and other times pieces are technically and visually arresting. If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing to a high degree of excellence. When I see excellence, I might cry. That’s when I know I have a “favorite.”

Tell us about your most preferred place to be on earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?

The ocean: Beside the ocean or in the ocean, but not ON the ocean. I don’t enjoy being on a boat. I like being on the shore with waves that I can hear in a rhythmic pattern. When I die, cremate me, and then please scatter my ashes at More Mesa Beach in Santa Barbara. Cast them gently into the water while you are wading up to your knees.

What drives your creativity?

Curiosity, the need for quiet, the joy of tinkering, the desire to share beauty with others. That does not mean that everything must be literally beautiful, but the feeling must be strong and must access the same deep wellspring from whence beauty emerges. 

What is your preferred medium?

Whichever one I happen to be using, but clay always transports me. It is a complicated material and I also appreciate making things that are useful and beautiful at the same time. 

Do you listen to any particular music when you create?

I don’t listen to any particular music. In fact, sometimes I just want silence. I like pretty much every type of music except super-hard-non-harmonic punk rock. I do like to hear and contemplate poetic words in lyrics, but I love instrumental music that allows my mind to drift. I also enjoy good podcasts. 

What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?

This is another trick question, like asking a parent who’s your favorite child. Not fair at all. I’m still making – maybe my favorite is the next piece I create!

What advice would you give to beginning artists? 

Dear Young Artist, 

Please pursue whatever art form makes you feel that you don’t want to ever leave or stop. Do the things that your feet keep walking you to do when you aren’t thinking about what you “should” do. Consider exploring the option of teaching (even every once in a while), because teaching is more about learning than you might realize. If someone has ever inspired you, then you will be able to inspire others as well. I hope your work (in material, in spirit and in intellect) will reform and re-invent our educational system, and that you contribute toward helping others find what sparks their curiosity and joy while creating. 

Love, Tara

Above: Spiral Texture Wall, 2006, Designed by Tara Cady Sartorius

Backyard Botanical Art

This bi-weekly livestream is an evolution of the Museum’s Botanical Art Workshop that traditionally takes place in the John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden. Through the MMFA’s Instagram account, Assistant Curator of Education Laura Bocquin shares the basics of botanical art that you can accomplish in your own backyard.

Click here to follow the Museum on Instagram.

Upcoming Sessions

All Bloomed Out

Saturday, September 5
9:30-10:30 AM

August 1, 2020

Class Title: Summer Succulents

Materials: watercolor paper, 3M painters tape, pencil and eraser, watercolor paints and paintbrush, water cup, paper towel, and a technical pen

July 4, 2020

Class Title: Flowers and Fireworks

Materials: canvas board, acrylic paints, palette, paintbrushes, water cup, paper towel

June 20, 2020

Class Title: Draw What You See

Materials used: drawing paper, pencil, eraser, and colored pencils

May 23, 2020

Class Title: In Full Bloom

Materials used: watercolor paper, 3M blue painters tape, pencil and eraser, watercolor paints and paintbrushes, cup for water, and paper towel.

May 9, 2020

Class Title: Fun With Color

Laura demonstrates how to enhance a drawing using colored pencils to create the illusion of depth.

Materials used: pencil, eraser, colored pencils, and paper.

April 25, 2020

Class Title: Looking Closely, Take Two

Laura demonstrates how to use drawn lines and painted color gradation to create the impression of curving leaves and petals.

Materials used: watercolor paper, pencil, colored pencils, ultra-fine pen, watercolor paints and paintbrushes, palette, and water.

April 11, 2020

Class Title: Looking Closely

For the introductory livestream, Larua shared the basics of botanical art that can be accomplished in your very own backyard.

Materials used: pencils, ultra-fine pen, watercolor paints and paintbrushes, palette, and water.

Share Your Work

We would love to see your creations! Share your work with us by taking a photograph and emailing it to us at

Home Studio: Floral Arrangements

Inspired by the blooms of spring and the trending #MuseumBouquet, MMFA Special Events Coordinator Aaron Ganey has created a floral arrangement that brings the beauty of spring inside. Designed after the asymmetrical shape of the arrangement depicted in William Glackens’ (1870-1938) Flowers in a Goblet (date unknown) from the Museum’s collection, everything in the demonstration arrangement is from a yard or nearby field, and each ingredient brings a unique element to the mix. Many of the plants used are even classified as weeds, so don’t think you need a lush, manicured garden in order to forage from home. If you aren’t able to find the exact plants we used, then work with anything that has similar shape, texture, or blossom size. This process is a form of self-expression, so use what you have without the pressure of making it look a certain way. Get outside, find some weeds and flowers in the backyard, and make something wonderful!

Download Printable Instruction [PDF]

Right: William Glackens (American, 1870–1938), Flowers in a Goblet, date unknown, oil on canvas board, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts Association Purchase, Eloise Jackson Memorial, 1978.1


To introduce the fundamentals of floral design through the use of greenery and flowers or flora found in your own backyard.


These are the items we use to design this arrangement, with some alternatives listed.

  • [1] Container
    • This demonstration will use a vintage, oversized silver compote. What’s important is to use something with good depth (not shallow) and no holes in the bottom.
  • [2] Rocks
    • All shapes and sizes are fine.
  • [3] Floral shears
    • Sharp kitchen scissors aren’t ideal for this, but they can be used if that’s what you have available.
  • [4] Cellophane tape (the thinner the better)
    • Chicken wire is the easiest to use when making a grid, so if you happen to have some, that’s great, please use that in place of the tape grid! The demonstration uses tape to show how common household goods can be used when arranging flowers.

These are the greenery and flowers used for our demonstration, all harvested from the great outdoors! (Scroll down to the Image Gallery to see larger versions of these images.) Try to divide your plants into the following four sections: structure, greenery, main flowers, and detail flowers. Remember, you are creating for your personal enjoyment, so relax and use whatever you have in the yard. And please, don’t forget to ask permission before taking flowers and greenery from your neighbors’ yards.


  • [10] Loropetalum (fringe flower)
  • [2] Holly Fern


  • [1] Fatsia Japonica (paper plant)
  • [6] Boxwood
  • [7] Variegated Pittosporum (Japanese mock orange)
  • [11] Camellia Branches
  • [12] Oakleaf Hydrangea
  • [14] Japanese Maple
  • [17] Honeysuckle Vines
  • [18] Ligustrum (privet)
    • Wild
    • Wax
  • [19] Leatherleaf Fern
Main Flowers

  • [5] Knockout Roses
  • [13] Drift Roses
  • [15] Crimson Clover


  • [3] Lamb’s Ear
  • [4] Queen Anne’s Lace
  • [9] Blackberry Vines
  • [16] Wheat-like Grass
    • Fountain grass
    • Feather grass


First, Harvest All Greenery and Blooms

  • Make sure they are well hydrated by letting them sit in buckets (or large vases) soaking up water for at least two hours.

Build Your Structure

  • Next, prepare the container. Place rocks in the base of the container and create a grid on the top using tape (the thinner the tape the better). This will help give your arrangement shape and structure. Fill the container with water. If you are using chicken wire, fold it to make a pillow and tape into the compote bowl or whatever container you are using.
  • Place woody branches to create a foundational structure for your arrangement.

Start Creating Your Shape

  • Add your larger greenery pieces in next, to develop the overall shape. In our demonstration, holly fern and loropetalum are used for this step.
  • Add in other greenery to create more structure that will help hold the flowers in place. We used smaller pieces of boxwood, ligustrum, pittosporum, leatherleaf fern, and camellia branches. By adding in fatsia, honeysuckle, and oakleaf hydrangea, it adds contrast and creates interesting areas in your arrangement. Depending on what plants you are working with, this stage could already be a complete arrangement, with the addition of a few large flowers, like oakleaf hydrangeas.

Add the Main Flowers

  • This is where color is added now that the structural base is built. Drift roses, knockout roses, and clover add a rich range of pinks and reds. Again, this could be the completed arrangement!

Finish with Details and a little Flourish

  • Finally, fun little details are added to really set the arrangement apart and make it special. Lambs ear, mint, wheat-like grass, Queen Anne’s lace, and blackberry vines are used to complete our demonstration arrangement.


Find the perfect spot in your home to showcase the arrangement you’ve made, then sit back and enjoy the beauty of your creation.

Submit Your Work

We would love to see your creations! Share your work with us by taking a photograph and emailing it to us at

Local Artists Live – Madison Faile

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes in studios of local artists? On Saturday, April 18, Montgomery artist Madison Faile will broadcast live on the Museum’s Instagram—opening his studio space to share his artwork, reflect on his inspirations, and offer a live Q&A with his audience! This is a great chance to meet one of our local artists and learn about his creations.

Above (left to right): Original artwork by Madison Faile; Portrait of Madison Faile by Anna Gibbs


Above is a recording of the April 18 live stream event that was originally broadcast on the Museum’s Instagram account. Click here to follow the Museum on Instagram.

Get to Know the Artist

“You can do anything you will yourself to do.” These wise words, spoken to artist Madison Faile by his grandmother, Deanie, indicate the origins of his dedicated, unbending nature. Pure creation itself drives his artistic work,  and no matter the medium or subject, one thing is abundantly clear: this artist lives to create.

Originally from Selma, Madison grew up in an artistic family where his love for art was cultivated from an early age. His mother was a ballet teacher and his district attorney father was an avid photographer with a darkroom in the home garage.  His grandmother, for whom he is named, was a very accomplished portrait painter and draftsman, and it was she who taught Madison how to draw. Encouragement and support from his mother especially helped his path in becoming an artist.

There are several artists in the Museum’s collection who inspire Madison, including Walt Kuhn, John Singer Sargent, Ida Kohlmeyer, George Inness, Clara Weaver Parrish, and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.

Madison is the first artist featured on the Museum’s program Local Artists Live, which will stream from the studios of various local artists, showcasing the talent and diversity of Montgomery’s art community. We asked Madison the following questions to learn more about his life, art and process, and to get a taste of what we might enjoy during his Local Artists Live segment set to stream on Saturday, April 18.

Madison, what is your favorite thing about being from and living in the south?

Being from the south is something that many try to escape, but I’ve always embraced it. Southern culture is so steeped in [both] pain and beauty, and I love the contrast. Forgotten elegance, ruined finery…I could go on for hours.

What excites you most about the growth of Montgomery’s art scene?

It’s been exciting to see Montgomery grow and develop over the last few years. We’ve come so far in such a short period of time. I only hope that with this growth comes an emphasis on public art, because we are still greatly lacking [in that regard].

You said Walt Kuhn’s Clown with Long Nose (pictured above) is your favorite artwork in the MMFA’s collection. What is it about this painting exactly?

Walt Kuhn’s life and work have always been a favorite of mine. There is a real metaphysical side to his characters. I don’t consider them portraits; I consider them paintings of characters. The one in the museum’s collection, like many of his, has real menace.

You are known to paint plenty of clowns yourself; is this directly related to the Kuhn painting or do you have another inspiration?

No. [My inspiration is] the circus.

What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?

Changes all the time. Impossible to answer.

Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel at that moment?

Changes all the time. Also impossible to answer!

Tell us about your love for New Orleans. Has the energy of the city helped shape you as an artist?

New Orleans will always be my spiritual city. I always find endless inspiration when I’m there.

What is your preferred medium?

I usually work in acrylic and oil, [sometimes] charcoal and pastel, and I adore colored pencil.

Do you listen to any particular music when you paint?

Everything. Ragtime to Big Band. 70’s to 90’s grunge. Nina Simone to Green Day.

What advice would you give to beginning artists?

Keep going. Do whatever you have to do to make the best work you can. Don’t settle.

Above: Walt Kuhn (American, 1880–1949), Clown with Long Nose, 1936, oil on canvas, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, The Blount Collection 1989.2.25, © Estate of Walter Kuhn

Book Recommendations – April 2020

Several members of the Museum’s book club, Ekphrasis, reflected on their collective favorites over the years in order to make some recommendations for you. Below are some of their selections—check back each month for additional suggestions—happy reading!

About Ekphrasis

The Museum’s book club is expanding! ​All individuals are invited to join Ekphrasis regardless of Museum membership. If you would like to join Ekphrasis, please complete ​the form​ below​.

Membership Form

If you have​ any questions, please contact Brandy Morrison at

In Sunlight or in Shadow


In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper


Lawrence Block

Why You Should Read

“There’s been a part of me that’s always been attracted to the solitary figures in Hopper’s art. To find what must have been a similar curiosity in the written works of well-known authors somewhat validated my feelings about Hopper.  But then to read original short stories by these authors creating worlds for each piece way beyond my imagination, helped me understand that those solitary figures could possibly have had a vibrant life before and after being captured by Hopper.” – Frank Gitschier

“I learned a lot about Edward Hopper paintings, the stories were very entertaining and educational. The story about the piano player was absolutely chilling. Think I’ll always remember that. I also liked that the authors set their stories in the depression era so they gave the stories a realistic meaning.” – Marlene Harrington

“I was drawn in by Stephen King being a contributor to this book. Each short story gives you a glimpse into how someone can interpret a painting by Edward Hopper.” Brandy Morrison, Ekphrasis coordinator

Upcoming Event

Wednesday, July 15; 5:30 PM

Join Senior Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld as she leads a discussion on these intriguing short stories inspired by Edward Hopper’s paintings. This event will be broadcast on Facebook. No registration is required.

We would like to hear from you about what you think is going on in our Hopper painting New York Office. Entries can be a character sketch, dialogue, very short story, poem, or haiku and should be between 17 and 500 words. Submissions are due by July 15. Full or partial submissions may appear on the Museum’s blog or elsewhere. Click here to submit your response.

Where to Purchase

Physical: Amazon | Digital: Apple Books, Kindle | Audiobook: Apple Books, Audible

Related Content

MMFA Collection: Edward Hopper, New York Office (1962)

The Last Castle


The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home


Denise Kiernan

Why You Should Read

“I’ve been to Biltmore three times and enjoyed reading how it came to be.” – Marlene Harrington

“I thought this was so relevant to our collection! I didn’t know much about the Vanderbilts, and this was such a good entertaining history lesson!” – Paula Susen

“Having grown up near Biltmore House and having been there several times, I knew a lot about the house and its history.  What was new to me was how important George Vanderbilt was to forestry, not only on that estate but to restoration of forests throughout the country.  The family also did more for the Asheville area than I had known. Until I read the book I did not know that many of the art works from the National Gallery were brought down from Washington, D.C. and were kept there during much of World War II.”  – Carol Anne Toms

Related Event

Where to Purchase

Physical: Amazon, Bookshop | Digital: Apple Books, Kindle | Audiobook: Apple Books, Audible

Related Content

The Biltmore in Ashville, NC

The Monuments Men


The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History


Robert M. Edsel

Why You Should Read

“Awesome story, better than the movie, of how a special force team of American and British art experts and soldiers worked together to save works of art from Hitler and the Third Reich.” – Brandy Morrison, Ekphrasis Coordinator

“I had previously read Rescuing Da Vinci (by the same author).  It is truly amazing that the Monuments Men located, saved and returned so many works of art.  For four years, an average of twice a day, I drove by the building in Wiesbaden which was one of two collection centers where the artworks were stored, cataloged and attempts were made to determine the owners.  There was never any reference to the Monuments Men or to what had happened there. So glad this story was finally told.” – Carol Anne Toms

Where to Purchase

Physical: Amazon, Bookshop | Digital: Apple Books, Kindle | Audiobook: Apple Books, Audible

Related Content

The Monuments Men Foundation

Home Studio: Coloring Pages

If your kids are anything like mine, they’ve gone through all the coloring books already during this quarantine! An activity that is fun for all ages (no children required) is making personalized coloring pages designed after famous works of art. Below is a walkthrough of this project inspired by Reynold Beal’s Off Bridgeport (1908) from the Museum’s collection as an example.


To create unique, personalized coloring pages inspired by famous works of art.

Material Suggestions

  • Pencil and eraser
  • Paper (any size; a light color or white is preferred)
  • Black permanent marker
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers


  • Contour Line – A line that defines the outer edge of an object.
  • Negative Space – Space that surrounds the subject of a work of art (the way air surrounds us in real life).
  • Positive Space – The space taken up by the subject of a work of art (like a person, a flower, or a couch).


  • Research: Search online (resources listed below) or look through art history books for artwork that inspires you. If you don’t have a specific artist in mind, try searching for art that contains something you or your children love. A special flower, a certain city, or a favorite sport are all great ideas!
  • Draw: After you choose your inspiration, get some paper and a pencil and start drawing. Take your time and draw the contour lines of the work of art you have chosen to replicate. The easiest way to draw contour lines is by drawing one section at a time, not trying to draw the whole object in one swoop. Your drawing does not need to include small details, but make sure it has the larger spaces for you to color in. Another thing to remember is that this is just like a rough draft for the final picture. You can adjust your drawing in the next step!
  • Outline: Use the black permanent marker to trace directly over the pencil lines, outlining the entire drawing without filling it in. During this step, you can choose which pencil marks you prefer, and you can even alter your drawing while you outline.
  • Erase: Fully erase any pencil marks left uncovered to reveal your clean, ready-to-color work of art.
  • Color: Now it’s time to color! The bold lines represent the boundaries between implied positive spaces and negative spaces of the picture which can guide color choices.


Have fun coloring your homemade creations!

Submit Your Work

We would love to see your creations! Share your work with us by taking a photograph and emailing it to us at

Additional Resources

An Introduction to Zelda by Kirk Curnutt

Painting was the third art form Zelda Fitzgerald attempted to express herself through, and the only one that no one could take away from her.

Beginning in 1927 she threw herself into ballet hoping to establish herself as a professional dancer. Whether the intensity of her practice was a symptom or the cause of the 1930 breakdown that left her intermittently hospitalized for the rest of her life is unclear, but from the onset of mental illness, her doctors insisted she had to give up her training to live a functional life. When that dream was gone she wrote a novel, Save Me the Waltz, but it sparked a massive conflict with her novelist-husband, who insisted that he owned the rights to their shared story because he was the established artist. As with these two other media, Zelda had dabbled in painting since childhood. Early in her marriage, she sketched a proposed cover for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922), that was far racier and truer to the spirit of the Jazz Age than the eventual jacket. But she didn’t truly devote herself to the visual arts until her tentative recovery from her second breakdown in 1932. The canvases that survive reveal a talent crying out to be heard amid an avalanche of celebrity, insanity, and marital despair.

As with so many women’s lives before the era of equality, Zelda’s is a case study in struggling to be taken seriously, on her own terms. She entered the public eye celebrated as her husband’s irrepressible muse and passed away vilified as the anchor that weighed him down. The iconicity she has enjoyed in popular culture for a century now swings between two poles, between admiration for her theatrical spunk and flirtatious wit and pity for her psychological shattering. Very rarely do fans, much less critics, try to find the craft in her work. We’re too invested in our image of her as a force of nature, a “whirlwind,” as Scott once described her, rather than as a genuine if unschooled talent dedicated to realizing her vision, to getting it right.

Just to cite one admittedly frivolous example, over the thirty years I’ve lived and taught in Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery, I’ve had any number of women tell me they’ve climbed into our Court Square Fountain in tribute to her legend, a prank inspired by the overhyped story of how she jumped into the spurting waters of New York City’s Washington Square shortly after her April 3, 1920, marriage. Only one artist—and it’s significant that it was a woman, not a man—has ever told me Zelda’s work inspired her to paint.

Even her mental illness gets in the way of appreciating what survives of her canvases and sketches. When in 1934 she titled an exhibition of her art “Parfois La Folie Est La Sagesse,” borrowing a French aphorism meaning “Sometimes Madness is Wisdom,” Zelda wanted the public not to infantilize her by feeling sorry for her. In her mind, she was finding her line of sight, and thus her stability, through her travails. Instead, that phrase has become something of an albatross. It binds Zelda to a whole Western tradition that glamorizes schizophrenia or bipolar disorder or whatever specific medical condition we diagnose her as suffering from (the jury is still out) as the generic, cool sort of “crazy” that allows us to revere our tragic, dysfunctional heroes as symbols of untamable individuality. This type of madness makes Zelda a fractured savant instead of a deliberate technician, all intuition and no elbow grease.

In this regard, whenever I study Zelda’s output I find the best way to appreciate it is to cordon it off from her life story. This is almost impossible to do with Save Me the Waltz, which offers a thinly veiled version of the Fitzgeralds’ marriage on all the familiar terrain, from Montgomery to Paris. It’s a little easier in her short stories; whether the piece she published in the 1918 Sidney Lanier literary magazine (“The Iceberg”) that Thomas Upchurch pointed me to before he and his wife, Cheryl, shuttered Capitol News and Books a few years back or the series of “Girl” stories Fitzgerald helped Zelda publish in the months before her crack-up, her heroines rarely resemble herself. Nor do their beaus seem like transcriptions of her husband.

It’s in her paintings, though, she seems most confident and most self-possessed. Maybe it’s the affinities with Picasso’s stretched bodies or the echoes of surrealist hallucinations. Maybe it’s the fact she drew inspiration from Alice in Wonderland or was possessed by Biblical deliriums. Whatever the reason, her paintings let us see Zelda on her own, as something other than “the wife of.…”

Among the various traditions in which she painted, I would even say it’s her still lifes where we find her most free of the prison-house of legend. The very inanimacy of the flowers and fruit she painted seems to have offered her a respite from the gust everyone expected her to kick up, a silence in which the strain and pressure might dissipate. There’s something wonderfully anonymous, too, about still life; the artist records everyday objects, making them either dreamy or hyper-realistic through lines and curves, angles and shades and backdrops. Still lives let us escape from the sturm and drang of personality and emotion: they just recreate the thing as it’s seen, without the hustle and bustle of a storyline.

I want to believe that’s what comforted Zelda most when she painted: that within a brushstroke she could dissolve into pure technique and find some semblance of peace.

About Kirk Curnutt

Kirk Curnutt is a professor and chair of English at Troy University’s Montgomery Campus. He also wrote the introduction to All of the Belles: The Montgomery Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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